Category Archives: Sustainability

Volunteers Count Bugs in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby

Count bugs? Yep, doing aquatic invertebrate surveys is a good indicator of water quality, so we do them twice a year at nine locations on the creek.

Volunteers took bug samples (aquatic invertebrates) at three locations on Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby today. While we haven’t run the numbers yet, judging by how few bugs we found, and the very limited variety, the water quality is likely in the lowest “Poor” category.

We use the established Module 4 methodology from the Streamkeepers Handbook.

The water in Byrne Creek is usually in the “Poor” to “Marginal” categories, since our “headwaters” are all residential, automotive, retail, etc. All the crap that accumulates on roads and parking lots is flushed into the creek.

byrne_creek_bug_sampling_20141016
Taking a sample with a D-net

Byrne Creek bug count
Baby crayfish found in one sample

Rain = Excitement on Byrne Creek as Salmon Should Arrive Soon

When I heard the lush, lovely sound of steady rain when I stirred in my slumber last night, I couldn’t help smiling. For the rains bring the salmon, and salmon are life.

We don’t get many salmon returning to spawn on our battered urban creek in SE Burnaby, but those that do stir excitement and passion in people attuned to the natural environment. As a volunteer streamkeeper for 15 years, I do my best to connect as many kids and adults as possible to nature in the city.

So while the weather forecast may look grim to some, I find it exhilarating.

That’s because salmon that hatched in Byrne Creek have returned from their years in the Pacific Ocean. Those that have made it through the fisheries along the coast, and in the Salish Sea, and in the Fraser River, are pooling at the mouth of the creek, waiting for higher flows to assist their passage up the little waterway.

As long as there is rain, we spot the first spawners arriving in the creek around October 17, give or take a day or two.

So this forecast looks great!

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Speaking On Burnaby’s Watersheds in Local History Series

Burnaby History lecture seriesI’ll be speaking about streamkeeping, and how these volunteers help to protect and restore Burnaby’s waterways. I’ll be supplementing a presentation by Elmer Rudolph, a long-time volunteer who has amazing knowledge of the history of the decline, and restoration, of the Brunette River. This is part of the Burnaby Neighbourhood History series sponsored by the Burnaby Village Museum and Burnaby Public Libraries, and I encourage you to register for this, and other sessions, here.

Mason Bee Condo Destroyed in Burnaby Park

Someone destroyed a mason bee condo that my wife and I volunteer to take care of in Ron McLean Park in SE Burnaby, BC.

Mason bees are beneficial pollinators and are no threat to anyone.

This is so sad. I cannot comprehend such wanton destruction. There was even a sign that explained the program, and that mason bees are no threat to anyone.

I am including the “food” category in this blog, because without pollinators like mason bees, we would have little or no fruit and many vegetables.

Mason Bee condo destroyed in Burnaby

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Creepy Consumerism

Now and then I’m hit with a creepy feeling of being on the set of a horror movie in which beasts are ravenously consuming everything in their path. The feeling is reminiscent of the short story read in school “Leiningen Versus the Ants” in which a plantation owner battles columns of army ants that are obliterating every living thing in their path. The other classic reference is to locusts. Masses of locusts.

The feeling hit me a few days ago in the cafeteria at the huge IKEA store in Coquitlam, BC.

The previous time that I felt such a wave of near revulsion was at a WalMart Superstore.

In each case I felt overwhelmed by excessive consumption. I was part of it, to be sure, but that just exacerbated my squeamishness with guilt.

In the IKEA situation, it was the steady flow of people through the cafeteria, chowing down on thousands upon thousands of meatballs, fish sticks, and tons of potatoes––mashed and French fried––not to mention the gallons of gravy. I envisioned how many times this scene was being replicated at IKEA stores around the world. Repeated day after day.

As for WalMart, it was a woman with not one, but two shopping carts stacked to overflowing, hyperventilating on a shopper’s high. She was near incoherent with consumption-induced euphoria, babbling to nobody in particular about the “deals” she was getting. I envisioned how many times this scene was being replicated at WalMart stores around the world. Repeated day after day.

I don’t mean to single out the above two companies. Choose your poison. We could add Costco and most any other major supermarket chain to the mix. Remember when Canadian Tire, was, um tires and other automotive stuff? Have you been to any of the new two-story monsters recently? Just another superstore with tires and batteries on the side.

I understand this all provides jobs. I understand that we live in a consumer-driven economy. What I don’t understand is how we can keep this up in the long run. Our national economy, our global economy, is a pyramid scheme that is dependent upon endless growth. Pyramid schemes are illegal, and doomed to failure with some poor sap eventually left holding the empty bag. That sap may be all of us.

Streamkeeper Training in North Vancouver

I attended a one-day streamkeeper training course in North Vancouver hosted by the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation. We covered modules 2, 3, and 4 from the Streamkeepers Handbook.

I figured it was about time I had a refresher, since it must be around ten years ago that I originally took the training.

It was a lovely, sunny day, and a great group of people.

You can check out some photos I took in this Flickr album.

Streamkeeper training North Vancouver

Installed Dual-Flush Toilet

A couple of years back I installed a dual-flush toilet in our basement bathroom, and it’s worked well. So recently we began keeping an eye out for dual-flushers on sale, and spotted a model that we liked at Lowes on sale from $269 to $169. We bought two, for the upstairs bathrooms.

Today I installed one, and by the time I was done, I was soaked with sweat. It’s not that hot, but it must be humid, because by the third trip up/down the stairs from the garage to the top floor, I was dripping. Disconnected, disassembled and hauled down an old toilet, and carried up, assembled and connected a new one.

Thought one was enough for today, as I have to be careful with my fused back. Do the other one later in the week.

Urban Sprawl — Are Humans Less Efficient Than Slime Molds?

“History suggests humans, in contrast to ants and slime molds, rarely optimize growth, particularly when multiple objectives such as profit, equity, and ecological integrity come into conflict.” And since we aren’t quite as good at this as slime molds are, there is the distinct possibility that we should plan for the worst rather than assume we’ll fix the problem ahead of time. – Dave Levitan | August 5 2014

Thanks to Pamela Zevit for posting this quotation, and the article it came from, on FaceBook. Pam posts links to a steady stream of articles that make one sit up and think.

Small Sockeye This Year?

I bought our first wild sockeye of the season at Save-On Foods in Burnaby, BC, today.

It was small, weighing in at 0.686 kg, or about 1.5 lbs. Of course that’s sans head and guts, but it still appeared undersized. All of the sockeye at Save-On looked small. Certainly way smaller than the pinks I fished on the Fraser last year.

Come to think of it, the fish looked not much bigger than a coho jack — a male coho salmon that returns to spawn a year early.

According to the DFO Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Guide, a sockeye “usually weighs between 2.2 kg and 3.1 kg, but can reach 6.3 kg.”

UPDATE: I’ve been looking into this online, Googling and reading academic papers, and have come to the conclusion that while small, this fish was likely not an outlier.

Most research and reporting on fish sizes and weights presents “average” ranges, and it’s hard to find information about what the usual minimum weights are. However I did find the following on the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada government website:

“Commercially caught sockeye range in weight from 2 to 9 pounds and are graded according to size: 2-4 lbs., 4-6 lbs., and 6-9 lbs.”

So I guess that 1.5-pound dressed fish was not an outlier.

Touring Byrne Creek with Vancouver Retired Teachers

A walking club from the Vancouver Retired Teachers contacted me a few months ago to ask for a tour of Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby. They walk regularly every Wednesday, all over Vancouver, Burnaby, and the north shore. I was happy to accompany them around the creek and ravine park today.

We covered the ravine loop in just over two hours, with plenty of time along the way to enjoy nature, and talk about urban streamkeeping and biodiversity. I am passionate about nature in the city, so I can blather on for hours, but they politely insisted at the end of the tour that they’d found it all very interesting : -).

And in a surprising gesture, they passed the hat at the end of the tour and came up with nearly $80 to donate to the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society. Wow! I was really touched, since our group is 100% volunteer and we have never charged for tours.

I enjoyed the morning outing. It’s wonderful getting out into nature, fresh air and sunshine, talking with a group of convivial folks, and getting some exercise all at the same time!

Vancouver Retired Teacher tour Byrne Creek